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Guest column | Dr. Marc J. Yacht

Retirement is better with a job or two or three

So much for retirement.

After 13 months of retired bliss, I had enough of my golden years and sought employment. I am not suggesting that all retirees are unhappy and would prefer to go back to work. I know many retirees who enjoy traveling, a few rounds of golf, visiting grandchildren and sunning at the beach. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

Within a month I had one, then two and finally three part-time positions. Then, of course, there are the two local free clinics where I now volunteer 21/2 days a week.

I'm busier than ever and am happy to have not one but five positions to complain about. Although I must say I did resent becoming the unpaid maid in the house, I never imagined I would miss complaining about bosses or want to have employees grumble about me.

I talked to a friend who is a psychiatrist and he claims people like me are obsessive. He insisted that with a little bit of research he could put a label on me. After all, what normal person would give up the opportunity to do whatever pleased him in the course of a day with no schedule or objectives to be accomplished? What sane individual would give up an orderly, relaxed routine and return to the chaos of the work-place, especially at my age?

I could not disagree with his initial evaluation that I am a compulsive personality. I come from a family of compulsive people. My mother worked well into her 80s and my father was employed until the day he died. His last words in a semiconscious state were, "Did you lock up the store?"

So why would I go back to work, anyway? I enjoyed my brief recess from work. For a time. Perhaps my personal history holds the answer to this dilemma that undermines an opportunity to be at leisure.

I started my working life at 10 years of age. I hawked used fur coats at my uncle's stall in the New Jersey, Pennsauken Farmer's Market. I worked in middle school selling papers, in high school as a supermarket cashier. When I was in college, I worked, and while in medical school, I worked; when I had no employment, I looked for work.

Once, for a short period, I was jobless but could not bring myself to collect an unemployment check. I certainly earned the right to an unemployment check. I remember starting for the unemployment office one morning and ending up in a department store looking for work — any work. Something bothered me about collecting a check and doing nothing.

Now, past 65, even though I have every right to my Social Security check and pension, I feel uncomfortable when receiving money that comes without some effort on my part.

One day, I related this to my psychiatrist friend. He just stroked his beard and started to treat me like a patient. He wanted to know how I got along with my mother and questions of that sort.

I must admit my family relationships were stormy. My sister and I fought like cats and dogs for years. We finally got along when she moved to Los Angeles. As for my mother, well, what can I say about a mother who would grab me while I was playing baseball with my friends and scream, "Genius, come home and practice the piano!"

Of course, along with a potential neurosis relating to my compulsion to work comes a more practical rationale: I need the money. My children keep going back to school. In all fairness, I was in and out of school until the age of 38.

My mother always told me, "Marc, what you do to your parents, your children will do to you."

There is a lot of truth in that. My children have not given me half the grief I gave my parents. I had timed my retirement expecting only one child to be finishing up his education. At one point after retirement, three remained in school, two in graduate programs. Currently, one will start a graduate program, another with a master's degree is going back to school due to a career change, and the third one with a master's degree is looking for work in Pittsburgh. My understanding is that people leave Pittsburgh to look for work.

All that said, I am happy to return to the work force and hope that I contribute to those who are investing in me and find value in my efforts. Perhaps that is the true motivation for my return to the workplace.

Most recently, I again saw my psychiatrist friend, who spoke to me with a lowered professional voice, in a soothing tone that you might hear while lying on a couch. He is well into his 60s. So I asked him if he had considered retirement.

"Are you crazy?" he answered. "I'd go nuts." With that, he shrugged his shoulders, smiled with a sheepish grin on his face and disappeared into the supermarket.

I'd like to go on with this, but I have to go to work.

Dr. Marc J. Yacht is the retired director of the Pasco County Health Department.

Retirement is better with a job or two or three 07/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 7:41pm]

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